With the temperature going to soar over 100 degrees, it's time to fire up the 'ol crystal ball next to the air conditioner... Here are my thoughts for 2006 before anything real starts to happen.
Louisiana Tech (85% chance of a Husker win) Anything can happen in a season opener. Remember 1998 when the Troy Edwards and Tim Rattay shredded the Husker secondary (featuring the Mike and Ralph Brown in their senior season)? But the Bulldogs only return 2 starters on defense and have to break in a new quarterback in Memorial Stadium...
Nicholls State (99% chance of win) This game might be more interesting if it were the season opener; then the attraction would be the debut of the new HuskerVision screen.
Southern Cal (20% chance of win) Yes, Nebraska played well against Colorado and Michigan to end 2005, but those teams weren't anywhere close to the quality of USC. Yes, USC is breaking in a new quarterback. But what happened the last time USC replaced a Heisman winning QB? The new sophomore QB went into Auburn and won his first game on the road, and the next year, Matt Leinert won the Heisman trophy himself. And thousands of Husker fans travelling out west didn't help at Arizona State in 1996 or Cal in 1998.
Troy (80% chance of win) Troy has been a growing program since going 1-A, and pulled off an upset of Mizzou 2 years ago. This game could be a trap between USC and Kansas, if the Huskers find themselves in a funk or a celebratory mood....
Kansas (85% chance of win) Kansas wasn't 25 points better than Nebraska in talent last year...they just played 25 points better. This game is in Lincoln, where the Huskers feed off the crowd.
Iowa State (60% chance of win) The 2004 loss at Ames was one of those inexplicable events of 2004. The Cyclones always play the Huskers well in Ames, as they usually grab a few recruits out of Nebraska. If Nick Leaders holds onto the ball in OT, ISU leaves Lincoln with a W. However, they've lost a lot of players from that defense, giving the Huskers a chance to get a road "W".
Kansas State (55% chance of win) This one is a pure guess. Nebraska hasn't won in the Little Apple since 1996. If not for QB Allan Evridge's bum shoulder last season, KSU very well might have won in Lincoln last fall. But, it's a whole new coaching staff for the PuddyTats making everything uncertain. Assuming that the Wildcats struggle with their transition gives the edge to the Huskers in this game. If they adjust to life under Ron Prince fast, look out...
Texas (35% chance of win) This game is in Lincoln, and Vince Young is in the NFL. But Texas still is loaded. Plus, the Bovines seem to find a way to beat Nebraska (5-1 since the formation of the Big XII).
Oklahoma State (60% chance of a win) I've seen a lot of people worry about this game. It's a road game, and the Cowboys will be looking to rebound after a tough transition game. And like the Troy game, it follows an emotional battle.
Missouri (75% chance of a win) Missouri loses Brad Smith, but returns a lot of players. Fortunately, Chase Daniel is not as much of a running threat, which means that pictures of Mizzou quarterbacks running all alone should be nothing but a bad memory.
Texas A&M (60% chance of win) A&M looked to be rising under Franchione 2 years ago, then injuries saw them struggle to 5-6. Now, Franchione is on the hot seat...and if he doesn't get the Aggies to a bowl game, he could be gone. This might be a "must win" game for Franchione and former Husker AD Bill Byrne, which means the emotion level at Kyle Field could go even higher.
Colorado (90% chance of win) Colorado quit down the stretch, getting outscored 136-19 in their last 14 quarters of 2005. The rebuilding process in Boulder is going to take some time...
What do I see here? Optimist says 10-2 (losses to USC and Tejas). Realist says Big XII North champions at 9-3. I've felt that Nebraska has had the best talent in the Big XII North the last 2 season, and this season there can be no excuse. Pessimist? Let's not go there, but with the kool-aid drinkers thinking we'll win at least one game between USC and Tejas, not winning at least 8 games will bring back the turmoil, barring a Zac Taylor season-ending injury. Considering that we add a non-conference game against USC, an 8-4 regular season is still showing improvement.